French 'Xarabank' accused of discouraging students to study English in Malta

English language schools register a 4.3% reduction in gross operating profit when compared with 2013

Deloitte's David Bonnet speaking at this morning's press conference
Deloitte's David Bonnet speaking at this morning's press conference

A primetime French TV show that aired some seven years ago could still have ripple effects on French students visiting Malta to study English, the chairman of the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations (FELTOM) said.

"That show, the French equivalent of 'Xarabank', focused on Maltese fishermen and packed English classes," Julian Cassar Torregani said.

"Paceville took the biscuit, with the show making sure to film gentlemens' clubs. For whatever reason, it was definitely aimed at targeting Malta as an English-language destination and telling French students not to come here. 

He was speaking at a conference in the Radisson Hotel to discuss the performance of English-language schools in 2014.

"Actually Malta's a very safe country, but media carries a lot of strength,” Casser Torreganis aid, while calling on the government to increase the marketing budget of English language schools.

Indeed, last year’s marketing costs for EFL schools reached a five-year low. Costs decreased by 3.1% when compared with 2013, the second consecutive year in which they decreased.

"We don’t have many bullets in our gun," Cassar Torregani admitted.

English language schools register profit decline

English language schools registered a 4.3% reduction in gross operating profit, a total decline of €300,000 when compared with 2013. The gross operating profit per student week plummeted by 8.9%. 

"This is the second year running that the industry reported declining average prices and decreasing costs," Deloitte's David Bonnet said. "This leads to reduced profitability and raises concerns about profit erosion and the long-term competitiveness of the sector."

He said that EFL schools should take advantage of the recent weakening of the euro in comparison with the dollar and the sterling.

"European markets have become more competitive, when compared with British and American ones, and Malta and Ireland are the only two English-speaking countries in the Eurozone," he said. "They now have more bargaining power to increase their costs." 

Salaries increased significantly, with teaching costs per student week increasing by 4.8% and non-teaching payroll costs increasing by 8.6%.
National statistics show that 245,587 students visited Malta to study English last year, a 3.4% increase when compared with 2013. Student weeks also increased by 5%, with English language students staying in Malta for an average of 22.2 days, compared with 7.7 days for the average tourists. In total, EFL students spent around €161 million, around 10.6% of the total tourism expenditure. 

Last year, English language schools employed a total of 2,300 teaching and non-teaching staff.

The number of Libyan students visiting Malta to study English shot up dramatically last year, with Libyans spending a total of 25,013 weeks last year, compared with 17,057 in 2013 and 7,551 in 2012. 

However, Bonnet said that the increase was mainly registered in the first six months of 2014 and that the student rate plummeted the in the summer months, when the Libyan conflict escalated. 

The number of Italian students also shot up, with Italians spending 31,750 weeks in 2014, compared with 23,123 in 2013. This offset the equally sharp decline in Russian students who spent 28,461 weeks in 2014, compared with 35,447 in 2013. 

Notably, 41% of Colombian tourists, 35% of South Korean tourists and 26% of Brazilian tourists visiting Malta in 2014 were all students. In his speech, Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said that these figures are in line with the government’s policy to diversify Malta’s tourism source market to non-European countries.

He also said that the EFL sector would benefit from the government’s plans to improve flight connectivity to long-distance countries. 

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